Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma 1852-1860 at the V&A
Showcasing the talent of a British pioneer in photography, Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma is an interesting exhibition dedicated to the earliest photographic depictions of the landscape and architecture of this South Asian region.
The exhibition is curated by Roger Taylor and includes more than 60 of Tripe’s most striking shots, acquired from the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Library and many private lenders, as well as the V&A’s own collection. A lot of effort has been put into assembling such an extensive presentation of the photographer’s snaps; the exhibition is part of the V&A India Festival – a series of exhibitions, displays, and events that explore the rich culture of South Asia.
Linnaeus Tripe provided the earliest photographs of the sites on show, including Madura: Trimul Naik’s Choultry – he was the first person to create a systematic photographic record of the building. These photos have quite a big historical impact on people’s understanding of the region, given that the places depicted were previously only seen through paintings or read about in books. However, a lot of these buildings do not exist anymore as they were destroyed during wartime. Once again, this makes Tripe’s photographs the only means through which a person can truly get to know them, turning this exhibition into a must-see.
Moreover, Tripe’s photographs boast impressive technical complexity and innovative precision, as he used to retouch most of his negatives in order to evoke atmospheric effects. For instance, he dappled the negatives with pigment to strengthen the branches and leaves on a tree (Beekinpully: Permaul’s Swing at Mariammah Covil) or to create the clouds in most of the photos himself, as early photography could not capture the sky in all its detail.
Along with his photographs of architectural monuments, ancient religious buildings, roads, bridges and geological formations, there are also albums of his work, an impressive panoramic scroll and two models of monuments similar to his subjects on show. Although Linnaeus Tripe enjoyed a short career as a photographer, his work is so fascinating in its detail that his legacy is still relevant today, decades after the last carefully arranged shot of a temple was taken.
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860 is on at the V&A from 24th June until 11th October 2015, for further information visit here.